02 Aug The Red Line Route in Indianapolis: Basically a Public Brew Bus
Indianapolis is one month out from the advent of the Red Line, a bus line with dedicated lanes and stops intended to drive the central city’s mass transit into the next century. The first section is 13 miles long and traverses through the heart of the city from Broad Ripple south to the University of Indianapolis. September 1st is the official open date, but it’s been a long time coming.
There are people on both sides of the line (that line being red) when it comes to the Red Line. Huge numbers of parking spaces have been lost for people that live along the route. Major thoroughfares are being reduced by 1-2 lanes, which has ticked some people off even before the system is up and running. On the plus side, if it works as planned, then people will move through the downtown quicker and traffic will be reduced – so perhaps losing the lanes won’t matter so much. But that’s if people ride in big numbers, and not just the people who had been relying on mass transit already, but people who would normally drive downtown.
Unfortunately, the organizers of the line may not have that much faith in it. In a January story in the Indianapolis Star, an IndyGo official stated that they won’t be measuring the success of the Red Line by the number of riders…..um, isn’t that the only way that losing parking and lanes is going to be balanced? And then, in a direct effort to spur ridership, Indy Go announced that the first month of Red Line activity will be free to everyone. They’re looking to give away rides in hopes of developing a ridership habit. I hope it works, since I’ll end up yelling in my car and looking foolish to other drivers if it doesn’t.
So How Does This Relate to Craft Beer? It’s with respect to the craft beer community in Indianapolis that the Red Line is going to be an unmitigated success. As a mass transit option, keeping people from driving will hopefully have a positive effect on getting around, overall city life, and be a plus for the environment. But more importantly for craft beer fans, the Red Line will be a golden road, taking us from one beer haven to another to another.
Broad Ripple is the north terminus of the new bus line, and it’s home to several craft beer destinations in the form of taprooms, bars, and breweries. Many are there now, and more are on the way. Sun King is taking over the Thr3e Wise Men location (just announced today, here), and Metazoa Brewing is putting a taproom just east of College Avenue in the next few months (an upcoming article will be tell this story very soon).
These are in addition to these the established taprooms, restaurants and breweries that are there already. Broad Ripple Brewpub, Triton Tap Room, Brugge Brasserie, Hop Cat, and Books & Brews-Broad Ripple – there’s a lot of beer in Broad Ripple to go with the entertainment, shopping, and food. But getting there from the south side or even downtown can be time consuming and it’s tough to find parking. Starting next month, just take the Red Line and get off when you smell the wort.
This same situation is true for other parts of the city. Fountain Square is home to New Day Craft, Fountain Square Brewing, Kuma’s Corner, Upland-FSQ, Garfield Brewing are all located right there, with Tappers Arcade, Hotel Tango, 1205 Distillery, and Chilly Water Brewing located just to the north in Fletcher Place. And this doesn’t even count the upcoming BrewDog Taproom that will open in a month or so.
In between Red Line north terminus at Broad Ripple and Fletcher Place/Fountain Square toward the southern end is downtown, a place just chock full of craft beer. True, some of them may be a couple of blocks off the Red Line route, but why should that be a problem, it gives everyone a chance to walk a few blocks and then pick up the bus after visiting a few spots, having some food, playing some games or seeing a film, or even visiting a landmark or museum.
The new 16 Bit Arcade+ Bar is now open just two blocks north of where the Red Line will split along its north and south route, and this new establishment is down there with older venues like Ram Brewery and Rock Bottom. Yard House has a good sized beer list along with a lot of food, and Tomlinson Taproom is located eight where the busses turn south toward Fletcher Place.
These are the three densest areas of beer and spirits along the route, but there are craft beer stops all along the Red Line. Twenty Tap is where Walter and I watched the new traffic patterns and had dinner and beers on this National IPA Day (Thursday the 1st). As an aside, I was wondering – with the center lane designated for the bus and plastic posts (bollards) separating that lane from the other two – how are they going to plow snow from the Red Line lane? Even if there is room for the plow, the pushed snow is either going to stay put because of the safety bollards, or the snow will bend the bollards over into the other two lanes and won’t be cleared from those lanes.
But our dinner conversation digresses from the point. In total, there are 33 craft beer and spirits establishments on the Red Line or within a block or two of the route. Liter House and Half Liter are perhaps three blocks east of the College Avenue, but they’re more than worth the walk. Likewise, The Tap and 16 Bit + Arcade are just north of the line, but not more than a two-three minute walk, just like BRBP, Books & Brews-Broad Ripple, Triton Tap, Sun King Broad Ripple, and Brugge on the north end. Every other establishment listed here lies exactly on the bus line.
Possibilities. Trips to craft beer stops are going to get easier with the Red Line, and will probably reduce drinking and driving. If the Red Line is your Uber, you save money, can make multiple stops, and with so many breweries and taprooms on the line, your choices are myriad. You could take several weekends to do your own brewery tours of the various parts of the line and never have to drive from place to place. It’s your own personal brew bus. True, a brew bus can take you specific places you want to go, but with 33 possibilities along the red Line, you don’t think you can find a full day’s drinking? Or five, or more?
On a larger scale, serious thought should be given to organizing Red Line pub crawls. A ticket could get you a bus pass and a tasting glass, and beer and spirits houses could offer swag or special beers to pub crawl participants (can’t offer reduced prices on beer unless you offer it to everyone). Or, you could run it as a passport. Visit X number of establishments along the Red Line to get a stamp and you get a free T-shirt. This is similar to how the Beer City Brewsader program works in Grand Rapids, but they don’t link it to a particular mass transit line.
Several breweries and craft beer taprooms have spoken with Indiana On Tap about putting on an event or program as described above, and the idea is being seriously considered. The folks at Garfield brewing are big proponents of the Red Line and are excited about designing events around the route. As opposed to breweries traveling to events to find potential patrons or bringing in entertainment to coax people into the taprooms, here’s an outlet that will be driving patrons to their door – literally. It seems like a no brainer to me, and is probably the surest possibility for the Red Line being a success.
22. Ram Brewery & Restaurant 140 S. Illinois St. 317-995-9900
26. Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery 702 Virginia Ave. 317-653-1806